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  1. #1

    Default 60 days, west coast and up through AZ, UT

    hi all!

    first time posting here, just found this place the other day and what a friendly bunch of people with a great wealth of info :)

    Well, here's the scoop. I'm based in WY and am planning a 60-day roadtrip this Summer, beginning in the first week of June. Would prefer to launch a bit sooner, but... well, I can't, lol. Anyway, I'm looking at a 2-day run to the West Coast, followed by the following route:

    © Microsoft Streets & Trips

    That's roughly 7500 miles. Subtract the initial 2-day / 1,000 mile dash to the coast and a 500 mile run home from Denver, add an extra 1000 miles again for getting off the beaten path and totally lost, hehe... that leaves me with 7000 miles in 57 days, an average of ~122 miles per day. Doesn't sound like a lot, but being into photography I want to ensure ample time to explore the areas and allow for extended stay in places where a single day just doesn't cut it.

    My main concern for this trip is where to sleep (safely, lol), and that's where I'm looking for all the advice I can get. I'm a guy traveling solo with quite a bit of photography gear, and am planning to sleep in the car and camp, ideally staying at a hotel/motel every 3-4 nights to regenerate, do laundry, resupply, etc. Because of the trip's duration and the difficulty in planning ahead so far in advance, how concerned should I be with finding a somewhat "spontaneous" (and safe) place to sleep that time of year? I have no problems sleeping in the car, but I don't suppose I can just pull into a rest-stop, shut off the engine, and get a good night's rest without being either fined or robbed, lol. I've read some posts on this topic, including the article on reservations, and while I really don't want to be bound by any kind of schedule whatsoever, I'm somewhat concerned to be stuck out in the middle of nowhere at some point, late at night, with no place to sleep. Then again, I was driving through Joshua Tree NP at the beginning of August last year and to my surprise it was almost completely deserted... so I'm not sure what to expect in terms of overcrowded campgrounds and fully booked motels. Any advice?

    With regards to where to go and what to do, does anyone have any cool tips off the beaten path? I love the old, neglected, abandoned stuff... the more beat up, the better. I'm not referring to all the old mining towns around the area, but places more like Rice and Two Guns, AZ. Old abandoned structures and buildings, abandoned cars, etc... modern ruins in general. It's a shame the shoe tree is no longer around, although I guess there's a fence now, lol... also a pity they removed the phone booth in Mojave. Such places often inspire me more than the National Parks. I'm not really interested in things like the "largest ball of twine", but the airplane graveyard in the Mojave would be my cup of tea. Just too bad it's closed to the public... would a stop there even be worth it? Any other such places?

    thanks, any input would be much appreciated :)
    Last edited by AZBuck; 12-28-2006 at 07:56 AM. Reason: Copyright Notice Added

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Las Vegas, Nevada

    Default Weather will be a factor

    Quote Originally Posted by RoadTripper Sascha View Post
    Well, here's the scoop. I'm based in WY and am planning a 60-day roadtrip this Summer, beginning in the first week of June
    Welcome to the Great American RoadTrip Forum! I looked around your photoblog site a little. You have a great eye. I have written a review of a new photography-themed book that features abandoned and wrecked automobiles that I think you would love and given your interest in locating stark landscapes, you should take a look. Another couple of outstanding books that you ought to consider when scouting locations are Troy Paiva's Lost America and Russell A. Olsen's Route 66 Lost & Found: Ruins and Relics Revisited,
    I'm looking at a 2-day run to the West Coast, followed by the following route
    My first thought is that much of our route bypasses some of the best areas for wildland photography in the lower 48 and that 60 days is probably insufficient to capture the types of images you are seeking. Much of your work seems to utilize raking and rising sunlight and I think you will be pressed to drive that far and do the set-up required to compose and shoot fine photography. There is no doubt that you can drive that distance in sixty days, I certainly have done similar routes, myself, but I have also have scores of days where I traveled less than 30 miles, chasing light from location to location.

    Some of the passes might not yet be open on your route in early June -- but you will be one of the first motorized vehicles to cross -- so photography options abound.
    Because of the trip's duration and the difficulty in planning ahead so far in advance, how concerned should I be with finding a somewhat "spontaneous" (and safe) place to sleep that time of year?
    In the western states, it is no problem to simply pull off of the paved roads and car camp in a pullout on a forest road or logging trail. We never recommend sleeping overnight in an official rest stop -- the practice is illegal in most states and unwise in the rest.
    Any advice?
    As you know there is a great deal of advice and commentary on this subject. Look at the posts in the "Gear Up" section for more ideas. Also be sure to look at the bottom of each page for more links to similar topics.
    It's a shame the shoe tree is no longer around, although I guess there's a fence now
    Shoe Trees abound all over the place -- the one in Rice is gone, but your route will potentially bring you past six of them! We too, revel in those odd roadside marvels and you might find our collection of roadside murals a worthy resource. Petroglyphs and native American rock art can be found in scores of places near your route of travel, (like this one in Utah and this one near Las Vegas) We are always seeking new submissions as well.


    Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 12-31-2006 at 10:26 PM. Reason: added link for the new review

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Boneyard(s)

    If you're really after airplane graveyards, there are a couple that are not too far off your path. About an hour or two south of Phoenix is Tucson, AZ, home to the Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Center (AMARC) at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, known locally as "the boneyard". Tours of the facility are available through the Pima Air and Space Museum just to the south of the base, but probably even better, since the city has grown up around the base, much of the boneyard is visible (and shootable) from public streets on the periphery. There is a similar operation just north of town at Pinal Air Park, but this is a former CIA facility and is still quite secretive, no photography allowed. Also, if you use the 'backway' between Phoenix and Tucson, US-60, AZ-177 and AZ-77, I think you'll find some of those 'modern ruins' you're looking for.


  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Québec, Montreal, Arizona, California, France

    Default Great photos!

    Hi Sascha!

    Wow, I looked at some of your photos, they're really good, right up my alley. Some other places you might consider for great photo opps (old adobe buildings, wrecked cars, semi ghost towns, desert landscape, etc.) : US 50 accross Nevada and Utah, US 60 across AZ and NM, south eastern Arizona (ex. : Bowie) and south western NM in general, towns along the Mexican border in AZ, NM and TX, Big Bend National Park area in TX (ex. Valentine), small towns along I-20 west of Dallas, TX (Ex. : Van Horn). South western Nebraska also has a lot to offer but I guess you've probably visited your neighbor State already.

    My main concern for this trip is where to sleep (safely, lol), and that's where I'm looking for all the advice I can get.
    My philosophy, and I admit it's a really laid back one, is that if there's no room at the inn or at the campground, the worst that could happen is that I'd have to sleep in my car. Needless to say, I'm not fond of reservations. And since, I equipped my car with all the necessary stuff to sleep in it comfortably (mattress, goose down sleeping bag, pillow, curtains, pepper spray just in case), all I have to do is find a safe place to sleep. My first guess is usually a truck stop chain (such as Flying J, Love's, TA). These truck stops are usually busy 24/7, they can be noisy (bring some ear plugs), but at least they are safe and have clean showers.

    If I am in the middle of nowhere and can't seem to find a safe place to sleep nearby, I'll just drive farther until I find one. It's not like I'm always travelling on a tight schedule and I always allow myself a little lattitude for the "imponderable". Since you don't necessarily have any point of reference for what is safe and what is not when you are away from home, the only tip I could give you is trust your instinct. If you don't feel safe, get ouf of there.

    One last thing : nights can be chilly on the coast, I suggest you get a goose down mommy sleeping bag if you plan to camp or sleep in your car if you don't own one already.

    I can't wait to see the pictures from your trip!


  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Washington state coast/Olympic Peninsula

    Default Wonderful photos!

    It will be fun to see what wonderful photos you take on this upcoming trip!

    I see you're going around the Olympic Peninsula. I can tell you that there are numerous old barns and boarded up houses around here. Off the top of my head, the only place I can think of that you might especially look out for is the old Oxbow Tavern that is a few miles south of Lake Quinault (on the south-west end of the Olympic Peninsula). But I know you will find other such buildings along this route. I see them when I drive the loop but I don't pay attention to their exact locations.

    As for safe sleeping, I think Gen and Mark have steered you right. Besides truck stops, forest/logging roads, you might also look for fishing ramps. Quite often, fishermen will sleep in their trucks or campers at these places so they can get an early start on the fish. Many times we used to pull our truck/camper into these places for the night. I always felt safe as there were extra people around and most of the time, with rare exceptions, they were there to fish so it was quiet early so people could get some sleep. If you stumble across a group of rowdy fishermen who are making too much noise later in the night, it's easy to drive off to look for more peaceful places.

    And dispersed camping is allowed on national forest lands as well.

    I normally don't bother with reservations unless I simply must be in a certain place on a certain day(s) and I believe it might be a busy time making finding lodging a challenge. I have rarely experienced any problems finding a vacancy at hotels or campgrounds.

    You can always make reservations "just in case" but change them if you're not going to get there on the reserved night. Just keep a list of your reservations with a phone number to call to cancel and a notation of what their cancellation policy is. I find that most places will let you cancel even the day of the reservation without any kind of penalty. However, some may require 24 hours notice so it's good to keep track. A few times, I have called the day before or the day of and then modified my reservation to another night without problem. Of course, if it's a highly visited area, like Grand Canyon or some other popular park, rooms may not be available. But then, knowing this, you can then choose to keep your original reservation or not.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Las Vegas, Nevada

    Default A different focus

    Quote Originally Posted by RoadTripper Sascha View Post
    ... ideally staying at a hotel/motel every 3-4 nights
    The car camping option is fine on several levels -- not the least of which it will allow you to sustain the budget longer, but I almost always stay in motels when I travel these days. The reason: I need to charge the batteries in my camera gear and download images to the laptop and from there into our servers. You don't need a motel to do this, but it sure makes it easier! One of your must-haves would be a good inverter so you can charge as you go. Here is a good overview about inverters.


  7. #7


    wow... thanks for all the great info and advice, and for the comments on my photography - much appreciated :)

    Mark, I stumbled upon Troy's website the other day and he has hit some great locations. Needless to say, his work is excellent too. According to his posts, many of those have since been torn down. I have taken note of a few others, a few of which would pretty much be right on the route. Thanks for directing me to your review of Russell's book too - sounds quite interesting. It's in my shopping cart at Amazon - a late Christmas present to myself :)

    I know what you mean with regards to chasing the light, and expect to encounter many situations where I end up shooting stunning scenery in harsh daylight. I guess I'll have to find a compromise somewhere... I won't have anywhere near the time needed to shoot everything under perfect light conditions. On the upside, I'm also planning to do a lot of IR, for which such conditions are far more suitable. But yeah, I can see myself falling seriously behind in some areas and will have to adapt accordingly.

    Which areas for wildland photography would you suggest, or which areas am I missing? A few areas may not appear on the initial map - Bryce and Petrified Forest, for example... any other tips?

    *cough* thanks for the heads-up on the passes too... something I would have completely failed to consider.

    AZBuck, I appreciate the edit for copyright info... oops, hehe... I should know better. The boneyard sounds great, especially your suggested backway getting there sounds really interesting. Thanks, I have a feeling I may need to scratch a few places in California off the list :)

    Gen, thanks for all the info too. A couple of those routes may be too far out of my way, but particularly US 50 across Utah served as an eye-opener. I don't know why I was so fixated on heading back through CO and hitting Great Sand Dunes NP, when US 50 and back up through Salt Lake seems a lot more interesting. In addition, it it would shave a few hundred miles off the original route. Again, something I'll definitely be looking into. I like your philosophy on where to sleep :) I wouldn't have thought truckstops as being safe or advisable, lol... I'll keep that in mind. Like I said, I really don't mind sleeping in the car and would actually prefer this over actual camping. The more flexible, the better.

    Judy, I appreciate the heads-up on all the barns and boarded up houses around the Olympic peninsula - something to look forward to :) I have Quinault in my sight and will try to find that tavern you speak of. Fishing ramps... I'm taking plenty of notes over here, lol... thanks for the tips on reservations as well.

    So if I understand this correctly, it's perfectly legal to spend the night at a pullout? Does this apply only to non-paved roads/pullouts in the forest? Sorry, so many questions... I'm just not totally clear of where I'm legally permitted to park and spend the night. I know such activities are not permitted in the NPs, where spending the night in the car is only permitted on the campsites themselves.

    Mark, I fully agree on the convenience of a Motel for charging batteries and downloading, backing up, wifi access, etc... also for mere safety reasons and the comfort of a real bed, lol. I have ample batteries and should be ok to charge everything on the road, provided it doesn't all have to be charged simultaneously :) It's a concern though, as I don't intend to charge anything in the vehicle overnight. I have a smallish 15AH power supply 12dc > 120ac for portable lighting... maybe that would come in handy. I could recharge the unit whenever I hit a motel. Geez... I tend to overpack, I see that being a problem in itself, lol. You seem to have a lot of experience in the field, so here's another one for you :) There's no way I'll be dumping 60 days worth of images onto a single harddrive. I've been thinking either two drives, one in the laptop and either a PSD or external USB drive, or backing up to DVD each night. Any thoughts?

    Is there any somewhat out-of-the-ordinary emergency gear you guys (and gals) would deem essential or would recommend? A CB radio or flare gun perhaps? Or is that over the top, lol.

    Thanks for all your great advice and tips, they're all very much appreciated! I came to the right place - you guys rock.

    Also, sorry again for all the questions. Hopefully by the end of the trip I can share my experiences and help others as well.


    oh... I may be 35 years old, but my mom's still going to freak when she hears about this, lol

  8. #8


    on another note, it's now 2:15 AM and I'm getting way too hooked on reading the threads on here, lol... great stuff, lots of interesting stories

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Washington state coast/Olympic Peninsula

    Default Not just any pull-outs

    You'll get most of the hints you need on stuff you might want to pack by reading through the posts in the gear-up section. This thread in particular. It starts out talking about packing with no wrinkles but quickly moves onto what we all pack in our vehicles. So take a look there.

    Pull-outs are only OK if you are in a very hidden area where you are not seen by passers by. Believe me, if a police officer/state patrol sees you at a pull-out, they will stop and check you out and, if you're sleeping, tell you to move. So, if you decide to do this, look for logging roads and other similar roads that will get virtually no traffic at night. And, if possible, pull off where you won't be seen by someone driving by.

    I have only slept like this in worst-case scenarios where I am exhausted and there aren't any other options. I prefer staying in established campgrounds, either privately-owned or national/state/county-parks. Mainly because I like to have access to restroom facilities and a place to clean myself up. And sleeping in my comfy tent is far preferable to my car. And I always enjoy taking a walk around the campground before hitting the sack to talk with other campers/travelers.

    If I were you, I'd pick up a good guide to campgrounds. Mark has a few good ones listed here. Scroll to the bottom of the page. Frommers puts out one just like that specifically for tent camping. Since I don't have a camper or trailer anymore, I have the one specific to tenting so I don't accidentally find myself at one that doesn't allow tents.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Washington state coast/Olympic Peninsula

    Default Yes, it's addicting!

    Quote Originally Posted by RoadTripper Sascha View Post
    on another note, it's now 2:15 AM and I'm getting way too hooked on reading the threads on here, lol... great stuff, lots of interesting stories
    You'll find lots of good stuff in there!

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